2015 in Review – Recap on Cyber Attacks

In January we predicted that website hacking would up-tick in 2015. That really was not much of a prediction for the year, since cyber attacks have been trending for some time. There has been much more hacking than we would have liked to have seen though.

“Here we are a year later, and looking back it’s one prediction that I wish I was not right about.” says Keith Kopinski, our quasi IT guy and Senior Art Director, “Hacking web sites is out there and we’ve seen a definite uptick like I thought we would. The best thing I can say, is at least there are steps and procedures out there that help combat some of the shenanigans.”

website hacking predictions 2015Sadly, cyber hacking is here to stay, and hackers have gotten much more direct with their “just because” cyber attacks. Check out a few of these statistics on cyber hacking.

This year, we have directed several of our WordPress clients to consider using a tool called SiteLock, a website security tool to help in the prevention of hacking and cyber attacks. Having it installed may protect your site from the damage one hacker can unleash on your website.

What are our predictions for 2016? Look for some insight on our blog in January!

 

Tangled Web – Website Trends

website trends

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a lot changed this year in website trends. We’ve seen some interesting tactics and tendencies. What’s next? Who knows – but I think everyone should consider catching up with what is. Here are a few of my observations from 2015:

  • Web sites are getting simpler; this one seems obvious to our team, but nearly everyone I share this with seems surprised. Reality is that as mobile traffic increases, sites will need to be simpler to be impactful. Ever tried browsing a complex site on an iPhone 4? Yeah, you get it.
  • WordPress is here to stay; think of WordPress vs. Drupal as VHS versus BetaMax. WordPress won. Even hardcore Drupal developers seem to be making the shift. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by over 58% of all web sites using a known CMS – or roughly 25% of all web sites. Read the survey highlights here.
  • WordPress is vulnerable; with its rise as a leading CMS, WordPress has attracted the attention of the hacker community. This year we saw our first attacks on two sites. Protect your site – fixing it after you’ve been hacked is a pain. We’re recommending a solution like SiteLock. Easy to deploy and configure, affordable, and seems pretty robust.
  • Analytics matter; although we’ve preached this for years, it’s been surprising to me how few web site owners understand how visitors use sites. But this year I’m starting to see a change; site owners are looking at traffic, learning, and adapting content to reflect what they’ve learned.
  • Responsive got real; you can thank Google on this one. With the announcement that sites that didn’t meet its standards for mobile responsiveness would be downgraded, Google kicked off a firestorm. Every site we’ve build since April 1, 2015 has had full responsiveness as a key performance requirement. If you don’t know where your site stands, Google offers a mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to check your URL.
  • Mobile arrived for real; most of the sites we work with seem to have an inflection point where mobile traffic suddenly goes from being relatively insignificant to playing a key role. We saw one client’s site do a complete flip-flop from predominantly desktop to overwhelmingly smartphones during a fairly brief period. These trends seem to vary by industry, but it’s definitely happening. Ignore mobile visitors at your own peril.
  • Google is a mystery; while the search side of Google has always been a challenge to keep up with, additional elements are coming into play as the algorithm accounts for other factors. Because of acquisitions and changes (for example the Google Places), many of our clients have found themselves with multiple legacy Google identities. Cleaning these up is a complex, and sometimes impossible challenge. The lesson? As you add new services, consolidate as many as possible to a single account. Merging them later is a giant headache.

Stand by Your Brand

pwb_standbyyourbrandI’m a big fan of Detroit. I love its gritty, get-it-done, Midwestern style. The tremendous legacy of manufacturing. And just spending time in the City. I’ve never shied away from telling people I’m from the Detroit area when I travel. Even though I didn’t grow up in this area, my family has strong roots here. I’m good with Detroit – well, except possibly for the Lions. I tried. That didn’t work out.

So when the Shinola watch brand hit the marketplace, I became a big fan immediately. They proclaimed a strong tie to building their distinctive products in Detroit and the U.S. where feasible. Shinola has particularly applied the “Built in Detroit” brand to their watches. As a fan of both watches and Detroit, this really connected with me. And I’m shocked at the number of people I see with these watches who normally wouldn’t spend over a hundred dollars on ANY watch. The corporate branding has gained traction and its tie to Detroit is a big part of its “cool” factor. And I think the simple, impactful marketing has helped build a solid brand.

Enter the Federal Government. The FTC, already aggressively pursuing Kansas City watchmaker Niall for its “Made in America” claims, recently turned their attention to Shinola. While Shinola’s watches are assembled in Detroit – hence the “Built in Detroit” messaging – many of the movement components are made in Switzerland, and the crystals and hands come from China. An FTC spokeswoman recently termed this “potentially misleading”.

As a marketer I find this interesting. Shinola is doing EXACTLY what the Detroit automakers are doing – sourcing as many elements as is economically and logistically feasible in the U.S. and assembling watches in Detroit. Have you looked at the foreign parts content on a “domestic” car recently? Yet no one threatened Chrysler with its “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

Shinola has said publicly that it won’t back down from its “Built in Detroit” brand mantra. And I – someone who thinks about brands a lot – think this says a great deal about the brand’s integrity. It demonstrates commitment to both their brand position and their support of the Detroit region. Most importantly, it shows they’re living the “we’re tough and we’re not afraid of adversity” spirit of this area. I’m proud Shinola’s building watches not far from where my father was born and that they chose the heritage of Detroit to center their brand upon.

The lesson for marketers is simple – stand by your brand. It will serve you in good times and in bad. By flip-flopping around, impacted by every whim, you only weaken it. If you believe in your brand, be prepared to fight for it because as some point, for some reason, you’ll probably have to do so.

-Sean-